Dynasty Prospect Profile: Devontae Booker
Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
40-yard dash: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Booker originally committed to Washington State after a high school career that found him racking up 81 TDs over just his final 2 seasons. But a too-low SAT score got that scholarship offer rescinded. Then a paperwork delay kept him from qualifying at Fresno State.
So Booker headed to American River Junior College, where he ran for 1,472 yards and 15 scores as a 2012 sophomore. Still, he had to contact FBS programs to generate interest, which finally landed him at Utah.
After a year off to strengthen his academics, Booker opened 2014 with just 10, 10 and 11 carries over the Utes' 1st 3 games -- all victories. He added only 3 receptions over that stretch. Week 4, however, found a 24-178-1 rushing breakthrough in a loss to Washington State. That began a streak of 5 straight games with 24+ carries and 100+ yards. Booker averaged 133.3 yards per contest over the final 10 weeks. His 43 receptions tied for 2nd on the team, just 5 behind the leader and 13 ahead of #4.
Booker then carried 21+ times in 9 of 10 games during his senior campaign and finished just 3 outings with fewer than 3 receptions. He averaged more than a TD per game and increased his yards per catch from 7.1 as a junior to 8.5.
Unfortunately, Booker's year ended in November with a torn meniscus in his left knee. That kept the former Ute from taking part in the Senior Bowl and working out at the Combine. He hopes to be ready to take the field for Utah's Pro Day on March 24.
Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com
Games watched: Oregon State (2014), UCLA (2014), Washington State (2014), Cal, Michigan
Assuming his left knee heals fully, this is a 3-down RB.
Turn on the Michigan game from last year on Draft Breakdown and the 1st play finds Booker reaching behind him to catch an off-target throw at the sideline, turning it smoothly upfield and bursting for a nice gain. (I'd show the clip here, but that game wouldn't work with the gif maker.)
That wasn't the only time he showed off impressive hands. This play against UCLA in his junior season featured a sliding catch of a low throw that would be a nice pick for a wideout.
Though Utah didn't do so often in the 5 games I watched, Booker showed at times that he can line up at a WR spot and run routes. He also fared OK in pass protection. His tape in that area won't blow anyone away, but he has experience and proves willing. Booker will attack rushers at times, as opposed to waiting and catching them.
His passing-game work complements an impressive rushing profile. Booker doesn't bring top-end speed to the position, but he combines nice moves with terrific vision, decisiveness and enough juice to do this ...
He's probably not fast enough to generate a ton of big plays like that at the pro level. But Booker hits the hole quickly, while also displaying the patience to set up his blocks. He doesn't dance in the backfield looking for a big play or prematurely bounce runs outside. Rather, he appears to excel at finding the crease and attacking it. And even though he's not big, Booker runs hard and doesn't like to go down on 1st contact.
Check out these back-to-back plays against Cal in 2015:
And this power run into the end zone against UCLA from the year before:
This is the kind of RB a team will play in any situation ... as long as he can hang on to the ball.
Booker fumbled 6 times in his 1st season with the Utes and then 3 more times as a senior. Watch his game cut-ups, and you'll see him carry the ball almost exclusively in his left hand, even when the play's going right. That's a no-no, and pro defenders will attack any issue on that front.
Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com -- among other places -- compares Booker to Bears RB Jeremy Langford, who seemed to flash some 3-down potential as a rookie. Booker's not as fast as Langford, though we unfortunately don't get a Combine 40 from Booker to compare. The 2 finished college with nearly identical rushing averages, though: 5.1 yards per carry for Langford vs. 5.0 for Booker.
Frankly, from what I've seen of the 2 to date, I prefer Booker.
I don't see much separating Booker from Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon in this class, though. We don't yet have athleticism scores to compare -- thanks to Booker's injury -- but both look like impressive 3-down types who should at least contribute quickly and consistently in the NFL as pass-catchers.
It's worth noting that Mike Mayock ranks Booker just ahead of Dixon. It's also worth noting that Dixon will enter the league nearly 2 years younger than Booker but with 342 more FBS carries behind him.
Pro landing spot might decide how I order the 2 on my dynasty rookie draft board, and it will obviously impact Booker's immediate fantasy outlook. If he goes to a team with a power back already in place, then he could be stuck with mostly passing-down work to begin. If his knee's right, though, Booker should be a draft-weekend option for any team seeking a primary back. He'd fit wonderfully with the Colts, who should move on from Frank Gore and have no heir on the current roster.